One of the most moving experiences that Chuck and I have witnessed at the Church of the Lord Jesus occurred during a Homecoming Service on Labor Day Weekend, 2000. Homecoming is a huge event every year in Jolo. Serpent handlers from Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, and West Virginia come for the weekend event, as do a number of media people and other “interested parties.” There are easily over one hundred people in attendance that weekend every year.
Throughout all of the serpent handling, drinking of strychnine, speaking in tongues, amazing music, and passion-filled dancing and spinning that we witnessed that particular Homecoming weekend, what hit me the most powerfully was a healing that took place on Saturday evening. This event was so powerful, in fact, that it drove me to tears.
Up on the stage, a middle-aged man, whom Chuck and I had not seen before that evening, puts down his guitar and walks up to the microphone:
I come from Georgia, and I’d like to testify a little bit, if that’s all right. You know, I’ve come a long way today, I left this morning at 10:30. I can’t thank the Lord enough, you know, because a boy, he wanted to come with me. He said, “I’m going with you, I believe I can get my healing at that church.” He come with me. He didn’t know these people, he still don’t know them – I don’t know many of them…So you know, you can handle serpents all day long – God can move on you to handle these serpents, and there’s nothing like that feeling in the world when God moves on you to handle, I’m telling you right now. But there’s also that last sign – He said that if you lay hands on the sick they shall recover…And I believe they will…I know God can heal, and I know this boy come with me tonight. So if you believe God can heal him, I’m going to call him up here tonight. If you believe that God can move to heal this boy right now, then get out of your seat and join me.
With that, a young man who appears to be in his mid-twenties, comes from behind us and steps onto the dance floor, kneels down on the ground and presses his forehead to the floor. All at once, the people who had been seated in the pews rush forward to lay hands on the boy. Twenty-five people surround him, touching his head, shoulders, and back, speaking words up to God. A song erupts to fill the room, with Lydia’s powerful voice leading. All of a sudden it seems that each person in the room has completely focused his or her energy on this one boy – on this one stranger. The huddle around him extends outward to the edges of the dance floor. Even those not touching him are dancing, stomping, spinning, and praying out loud – all for this young man that none of them knows. Tears cannot help but form in my eyes as I see this incredible display of love and faith. I am struck by the fact that although no one knows this boy, they are revealing such a deep love for him. No one knows from what he needs to be healed, no one knows if this boy is “worthy” of being healed, no one knows what type of life this boy leads. None of this matters because all people are worthy in their eyes. This unconditional love they display for perfect strangers is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed before. These individuals are incredible people who have deeply struck my heart.
After about ten minutes of continual praying and laying of hands, the boy jumps up and begins to dance furiously. He is joyous, filled with the love and spirit of God. He goes outside and runs down the street. Whatever was holding him down seems to have been lifted from his shoulders and he is freed, he is healed.
© Shannon Bell, 2000